Monday, January 26, 2009

Al Shabaab May Be Running Somalia Now: Just What We Need

Whether or not Al Shabaab is running Somalia is a bigger issue for Minnesotans - and for all of us than you might think.

It's been a week since Barack Obama was sworn in as President of the United States (twice).

One bit of good news about the inauguration was the nobody from Somalia blew up at the festivities: or somewhere else, in a spot calculated to cast a pall over the opening day of Obama's administration. There was reason to be concerned:

"The FBI was investigating two 'streams of intelligence' suggesting that Somalia-based terrorist organization Al Shabaab may have been plotting an attack timed to coincide with the event, the FBI and Homeland Security said in a joint threat advisory obtained by CNN...." (CNN)

Isn't that "Al Shibab?"

I've been over this before. Spelling names as used in one language in another is tricky: and it gets a lot trickier when the languages don't used the same alphabet.

"Al Shabaab" is one way of expressing the name of an Islamic 'militant' group, or 'Islamist' group in Sudan. "Al Shabaab" is roughly the way it sounds. Translated, it means "youth," or "the youth." Latinized spellings of the name that I've run into are: the Shibab, al-Shabab, the Shebab, or Al-Shabaab. I've tended to go with "Al Shabaab."

Americans: You Think it's Bad Here? Check Out Somalia

About ten days ago, Ethiopia was pulling out of Mogadishu, Somalia's capital, and Islamic 'militants,' 'Islamists,' or whatever, were moving into the facilities Ethiopian troops had been using. I'm not clear on details, but today we've heard that Al Shabaab is holding key parts of Mogadishu. They've raided the Somali Parliament building, and apparently are demanding that several lawmakers surrender.

Al Shabaab may not get its way, though.

"...The situation left Somali lawmakers stranded in the neighboring country of Djibouti, where they often convene and where talks on forming a new government are under way...." (CNN)

I'm happy for them: Al Shabaab doesn't sound like a bunch any sensible person would surrender to, given a choice.

On the other hand, It says quite a bit about Somalia that its lawmakers - apparently all of them, except for the 'Islamists' - were meeting in another country. That'd be like the U.S. House and Senate meeting in Quebec.

Somebody Knocked Over Somalia's Alleged Government - So What?

Somalia is far from a major player on the world stage, but it's in an important position: that's why Somali pirates were - and are - such a problem. Who's running the country does make a difference. Particularly if the people running it decide to make it into another safe haven for terrorists.

And, I've got a more personal reason.

Quite a few people from Somalia come to Minnesota. It's not the climate that draws them here: It's the jobs. As far as I know, nobody from that part of the world's moved into my town yet, but I've run into some of these new Minnesotans in the nearest small city, about an hour down the road.

I haven't asked anyone, but my guess is that many of them are concerned about what's happening, back in the 'old country.' And, I'd be a lousy neighbor if I wasn't at least a bit concerned, too.

Al Shabaab: Not a Very Nice Group

Al Shabaab isn't the sort of organization that fits well in a civilized world. The top Al Shabaab leaders seem to be affiliated with Al Qaeda, it's killed Somali peace activists, and the American government has identified Al Shabaab as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

And, Al Shabaab may be involved in the disappearance of a dozen or so Minnesotans. Some of them may have ducked out willingly. Others should probably, under the circumstances, be considered victims.

The Distressing Case of the Disappearing Minnesotans

One of the young men was found in Somalia. His name was Shirwa Ahmed. He was from a Somali-Minnesotan family, and apparently was the star performer in a suicide bombing back in Somalia. It took DNA testing to figure out who the pieces belonged to, but he's been returned to his family, and buried.

Victim? A suicide bomber?! As I wrote last December, "I think it's very possible that Shirwa Ahmed was a suicide bomber: and I'm not excusing that act. But I also think that people can be persuaded: Particularly if the persuader claims to be using the authority of their religious beliefs."

The last I heard, the Somali connection with the disappearance of between 10 and 40 young Minnesotans hadn't been established. But it's not all that unreasonable: particularly since what seems to be another bunch dropped out of sight after Homeland Security found out that one Somali suicide bomber had been a Somali-American:

"...One homeland security official told the Financial Times investigators were trying to ascertain whether it had any connection to a group of Somali-American youths who had gone missing from Minnesota. The men disappeared from their homes after authorities determined a suicide bomber who had attacked a target in Somaliland, east Africa, was a Somali-American...." (Financial Times)

It's not 'That Trouble Over There'

The odds are very good that Al Shabaab, or a like-minded group, convinced Shirwa Ahmed to leave Minnesota, and kill himself in Somalia. Units of the National Guard from Minnesota, and the other states, have been serving long, hard, tours of duty abroad. And, despite the best efforts of those who try to stop terrorists, it's possible that Al Qaeda or some other group will succeed in another attack like 9/11.

The War on Terror is very real, it isn't something that can be safely ignored, and it isn't 'over there.' It's every place where people aren't living quite the way that the Taliban or Al Qaeda - or Al Shabaab - think they should.

More-or-less related posts: In the news: Background:


Anonymous said...

"The War on Terror is very real, it isn't something that can be safely ignored, and it isn't 'over there.' It's every place where people aren't living quite the way that the Taliban or Al Qaeda - or Al Shabaab - think they should."

Good job with this statement, While many will think it is only overseas they are wrong. The media and Americans ignore the own battle in our land.

Somalia is a real threat I think I believe them to be a threat to America and to the war on terror.

"Who's running the country does make a difference"

Islam is I believe, but not publicly maybe, Islam is rapidly growing and is considered a threat.

but please don't qoute me I'm only stating my views I would love to hear other views.

Brigid said...

I don't think Islam's the threat. It's the homicidal extremists who are the threat. But other than that you've got a good point there, P and F.

Brian H. Gill said...

Politics and the Future,

Thanks for the kind words, but I'm afraid I can't agree with you, regarding Islam.

There are very many varieties of Islam. Some, like the wild and wacky version that's used to run Saudi Arabia, may very likely be a threat.

Indonesia, with some recent exceptions, has been an example of an "Islamic" country which is quite civilized.

I think an analogy might be Christianity: particularly Protestantism. The claim that there are 30,000 may be an exaggeration. (There's an interesting defense of that number here.)

Arbitrarily limiting "Christian" to mean Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian-Reformed (I don't), the number goes down to 100 to 110 - the actual count varies from year to year, but has stayed within these limits since about 1960 (Explaining Schism in American Protestant Denominations, 1890–1990
, Sutton and Chaves).

There's quite a lot of diversity in the beliefs of that limited set of denominations. When you add the tiny denominations with a dozen or so members, there's even more imaginative theology in play.

I think it's arguable that this is the case with Islam.

Given that assumption, I don't think it's reasonable to assume the Al Qaeda is a representative example of Islam as a whole, any more than I think the KKK of the sixties was typical of Christianity.

Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and like-minded people: Yes, those are a very real threat.

Most Muslims I've corresponded with, no more of a threat than I am.

About Somalia being a threat: There's a recent post that addresses a related issue: "Somalia, Minnesota, and Common Sense " (March 22, 2009).

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.